The girl from Armenia that thinks Shanghai has its own smell

The first time Armenia's Nare stepped into Shanghai, she said it had a different smell from her hometown. What kind of smell was that? Nare explains...

Holin’s words:

Nare is the first person I know from Armenia – a sovereign state in the South Caucasus region of Eurasia – a kind of far-away place to people in Shanghai. That’s something fantastic only the amazing magnet city like Shanghai will happen, just as most of expats would told me, they could make friends with people from all over the world here. 

Nare is a brave girl. She decided to come to a totally strange country thousands of kilometers away, just because it’s different and unique. Without any acquaintances or friends here, she came only with a scholarship and an inquisitive heart set on a new life.

I met Nare at a personal home art show. That day, Nare was in white and looked cool, posing in front of colorful oil paintings. Just like Chinese girls of her age, she enjoys dining out with friends, visiting various kinds of exhibitions, and of course, posing for beautiful photos.

During the interview, Nare became a good talker. After that, it was time to take some pictures and video. She's a natural in front of the camera.

“Maybe more, and try this.” After looking at the photos I'd taken, Nare went back to the background we chose and gave some new poses.

After I sent her all the pictures we took that day, Nare selected one of them to be shown below. “Okay, I like this one.”

The girl from Armenia that thinks Shanghai has its own smell

Name: Nare Haroyan

Nationality: Armenia

Job: Student and intern

Years in Shanghai: 7

Holin: Would you please share with me the reason you came to Shanghai and chose this city to call home for such a long time? 

Nare: I am from Armenia, and most people from my country they like to go to the US, or to Europe mostly, and I think it is okay for everybody but I love everything different and unique. So China for me is already something different, I already knew that I would like it.

I checked out Shanghai, and I specifically wanted to come to here. There was a scholarship for study to apply, and I applied for the scholarship. That is why I am here.

I studied my Master Degree of Psychology here, and now I am doing my PhD. So I came here and my scholarship covered one year, I learnt Chinese, and then I passed HSK 5 (Chinese Proficiency Test, China's only standardized test of Standard Chinese language proficiency for non-native speakers; with levels from one to six). After that I did my master degree in Chinese for three years and I graduated. I passed HSK 6, and then I started my PhD Degree. And I hope I can graduate.

Holin: Which school do you study at now?

Nare: Shanghai Normal University. That university is like a home. My past time was all spent there.

Holin: Do you have any impressive stories to do with Shanghai?

Nare: Oh, yes, of course! I can never forget my first day when I arrived in Shanghai. I remember it so clearly. I came out of the airport. There was a kind of smell; you know there was a smell I never experienced in my life.

Holin: Which kind of smell? Can you explain more about that?

Nare: It is like a smell of humidity in Shanghai. I see everything is so big, so huge, and I talked to my mom, and I said: " I came to another world."

I really had this feeling that I arrived in another world, not another country. But then I never had that feeling again, maybe because I am used to that smell.

I've traveled a lot in my life, and I've traveled to many European countries, to the US, but I only have this smell when I first arrived to Shanghai, after that, I was used to it.

And another memorable thing is about food.

The first time when I was having dinner with my classmates and my professors; and when Chinese people eat food they make a lot of noise which is impolite. That was quite different from what I have seen. I think manners are very different. A lot of people when they came here, and they say Chinese people are like this, Chinese people are like that, but what I learnt is, they shouldn't judge because this culture is totally different from another culture. I am doing the cross-cultural communication. The more I read and research, the more I understood.

When you came to China, you should forget everything.

This is China. The experience is different.

Holin: How do you spend your weekends in Shanghai?

Nare: To be honest, I go out a lot. But on weekends, I do part-time jobs, I do some private tutoring, sometimes I do psychology tutoring, and sometimes tutoring in English. And I also have an internship for a fashion company to improve my cross-cultural communicative skills which is good, and I also came to my research.

And I love exhibitions. I love cultural things. I also like communication which is my major. I usually go out and meet new people. It is not like I go to clubs, more like events related to my job or whatnot. I can meet new people and also have fun.

Holin: As you meet many new people, will you speak Chinese?

Nare: I can speak Chinese without any problem.

Holin: How long did it take you to speak Chinese well?

Nare: One year, because I had this intensive year of Chinese. The first year when I got to China, I had to learn Chinese. Before I came here the only words I can speak is "Ni hao ('hello' in Mandarin)," but after one year, I could communicate with Chinese people. 

Holin: Wow, you are amazing! So it’s helped you to explore Shanghai more conveniently. So which place in Shanghai do you like best and why?

Nare: One thing which is amazing about Shanghai and I wish you could mention about is Shanghai is so big, and it has so many things happening here so fast.

Recently we found out there are always new places to go, even we go out every weekend; we never repeat; it is diverse.

But I do have my favorite place in Shanghai. I love dancing; it is one of my hobbies. If I go to dance, I usually go to UNICO, because they play my favorite music. It is like a dancing club and they have dining too. I like that place for dancing most of the time.

And SHAKE on Maoming Road is also one of my favorite places, they have very good live music three times a week, when I am tired, I will go there to relax.

For dining, I like Xintiandi, because there are so many things to do. And I really love the newly-opened Datong Fang or FOUND 158. Now it is very famous. Many expats like to go there. One time I was there, because I need to do my research, and I needed a lot of participants. I see many expats there, and I feel that “oh, my god! I can finish all my experiments here.”

And I love the former French Concession a lot. That part is very warm and cozy.

Holin: And which roads do you like best? 

Nare: Huaihai Road M. I especially love it in winter time, you know with the lighting and Christmas decorations, and I think it is the best. 

Holin: Which elements of Shanghai do you like?

Nare: Safety. As I said, I have been to many countries, but believe me, Shanghai is very safe like you feel safe in this city, you came out from your house in the morning and you know even at 2am or 3am, you will come back home. You know in many countries, because of the terrorist attacks and people got killed… but here I feel safe.

The second reason I like is Shanghai is, such a huge intercultural city with a lot of opportunities for people to grow up, especially when I came. It is quite a nice place to host foreigners, so I think Shanghai is a nice place to live.

Although I have been to many places in China, wherever I go, I will compare it to Shanghai, I still love Shanghai most.

Holin: Wow, so next question will be suitable for you. Anything in Shanghai you hate and any suggestions to make it better?

Nare: The weather. Where I am come from, they don't know what pollution is. I don't like the humidity and I think there is not good weather in Shanghai. But compare to other cities, Shanghai weather is still good. And I always have cough issues in Shanghai because of the weather.

And everything in Shanghai is changing too fast; people come and leave too fast. Sometimes, when you go back home, you will think that "Oh my god, what did I miss today?" Sometimes it will drive people into crazy, but for me it is okay. For many people there is too much pressure.

Holin: Compared to your country, any shortages in Shanghai? 

Nare: Let's say for the city widely, it is very comfortable and modern, and it is very easy for everybody to live and to feel safe. The city is huge but they have all the important and necessary facilities. In this element, I would say this city is one of the best cities in the world, with its structure, technology, modern architecture and designs.

The shortage of China is the different manners of people, you know sometimes people behave the way: sometimes they speak loud in public, and they pee everywhere. Public manner is something I would like to change in China.

One more thing, China should give some hours to students who are studying here a chance to work. They can do some tutoring, or something else to earn the extra money. Because many students they don't have enough money even if they get a scholarship.

Let's say if they can work like 10 hours or 20 hours per week like Europe does, and don't be afraid that police will catch us. You know some people they don't work at clubs, they just do some simple things to get some extra money.

I wish one day Chinese law can allow foreign students to work a few hours, waitress, teachers or whatever, and it will be great. You know, some students they don't get scholarships, they are self-supported, when you get here you may not get good, you know your money is from your parents, if you can have extra money you will feel good about it.

Holin: Any impressed memory during your life?

Nare: This kind of question I can never answer. Because many things, even simple things, I can make into a big thing… If I get a new job, if I make someone happy, it will feel memorable.

Maybe moving to Shanghai was the most important decision. I made this decision by myself when I was young. At first, they refused me and I couldn't get the scholarship, but after one month I got a call from my government again, and they say we decided to send you to China. And it is why I am here now.

What does Nare want to say to her future self? Have a look! Nare is sending a message to her future self to watch ten years from now!

Filmed by Holin Wang and Joan Zheng. Edited by Zhong Youyang. Translated by Joan Zheng. Special thanks to Andy Boreham.

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